Friday, July 3, 2015

This Day In Pop Culture, July 3

Brian Jones and Jim Morrison Die

We've all stared at the stars and played connect-the-dots. "Those four over there look like..." Depending on your situation or disposition you might see a giant ladle or a bear. The very same stars, connected by different imaginations.

Today on the anniversary of the deaths of Brian Jones (1969) and Jim Morrison (1971) we have the anchors of the constellation that has been named in retrospect "The 27 Club".

Morrison's legend survives his passing and his name remains instantly associated with The Doors. I suspect that Jones' legacy hasn't done as well across subsequent generations. In brief, Brian Jones was the founder of The Rolling Stones, their original promoter, and probably the Stone who had the greatest impact on the music over the first five years of the band. His role in the Stones diminished with his drug use, the growing control of manager Andrew Loog Oldham, and the creative maturation of Keith Richards and Mick Jagger. He was fired by the band in June of 1969 and was found at the bottom of his swimming pool less than a month later.

Brian Jones

While unlikely his intention, Jones also became the founder of The 27 Club, a collection of popular musicians who all died at the age of 27. And depending on your dispostion, "27" may be a coincidence, or the manifestation of some deeper underlying process.

Of course no constellation is made up of a single star, whether gaseous or rock. Even two stars do little to fuel the imagination. It was only with the death of Morrison, following the 1970 deaths of Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin, both also 27, that some first noticed an emerging pattern. When Kurt Cobain of Nirvana committed suicide in 1994 at 27, "The 27 Club" became for many much more than a coincidence. Amy Winehouse's failure to clear that dreaded age turned The Club into a law of stellar physics.

The "Big 6" of "The 27 Club"
Once The Club was founded, the obituaries of all rock and blues musicians were reviewed for prospective members. As you would imagine given the total number of musicians and their propensity for self-destructive behavior, The Club could now fill a good-sized tour bus. Blues legend Robert Johnson (also a member) is probably behind the wheel, cruising through the crossroads.

I've not seen research that supports or refutes the basis of The Club. I'm sure such research is possible. For my part, I don't think there's anything to that specific number which explains the death of musicians. Ex-Byrd, ex-Flying Burrito Brother Gram Parsons died at 26. Jazz cornet great Bix Beiderbecke died at 28. Miles Davis almost died at 28 but saved himself by kicking heroin, locked up in his father's house.

I have a friend who is working on a play about The 27 Club, so I've probably given it more thought than is necessary for a functioning life. My guess is that there's actually a 26/27/28 Club, and maybe a few more numbers are needed at either end. The life of a rock, blues, or jazz musiscian is dangerous. Drugs and alcohol are available, accepted, and encouraged, while at the same time money, fame and parasites insulate them from the sobering effects of reality. You either get your demons in check by the time you're 26, 27, or 28, or your demons get you.


The most thorough roster of "The 27 Club" I've seen is on Wikipedia. For a few more pictures of Jones, Morrison and the others, check out the KultureKat Pinterest board.

Follow KultureKat's board 27 Club on Pinterest.

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